For James Conner, participating in voluntary workouts on Tuesday felt like the first school day.
"We were just smiling at each other," the running back said, as a chunk of Cardinals took part in the first official day of strength and conditioning work. "It's just good to see everyone and see the faces we haven't seen in a while. It was about coming around the guys and getting good work in with our training staff.
"Then just being around the nice weather out here; it's still working its way up to be warm back from I'm from (Erie, Pennsylvania). I'm just happy to be out here to take advantage of the opportunity."
The offseason returned to normal after two years of upheaval because of the pandemic. After a couple weeks of getting in shape, the Cardinals will move to Phase 2 (on field without helmets and without the ability to have offense against defense), then Phase 3 (helmets and offense vs. defense during OTAs and the mandatory minicamp.)
There were more than a couple of veterans not present for the voluntary work, among them quarterback Kyler Murray. But his teammates said they weren't concerned about it.
"It's no big deal," Conner said. "It's just strength and conditioning. It's all good."Conner said.
"All I need him to be there for is, the first game of the season and play good," defensive end J.J. Watt said.
Other than some vacation time, Watt had already been working out in the building every day with teammates and strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.
The former three-time defensive player of the year is excited for a regular offseason for the first time in two years. He said although the team always talks about football, at this point in the offseason, the current priority is to grow as an athlete.
"We're trying to get bigger, we're trying to get faster, we're trying to get stronger," Watt said. "All the things you can control in the offseason."
Conner turned in a Pro Bowl selection in his first season in Arizona and received a three-year contract this offseason. He will be the lead back in 2022, with Chase Edmonds departing for the Miami Dolphins.
Tight End Zach Ertz, who impressed since arriving with the team midseason (via trade), also re-signed on a long-term deal this offseason. Wideout A.J. Green, who was solid as DeAndre Hopkins' complement on the outside, will be in Arizona for at least another year.
This will be year two for the trio in coach Kliff Kingsbury's system, which is something Conner sounded excited about.
"It'll be nice to continue to hear the language again and get into that rhythm and flow," Conner said. "I think Year two could be big. It's super early for any predictions, but I know everyone who did re-sign is excited to be back for this jump we're going to take in Year two."
After two years of dealing with the pandemic, the Cardinals return to a "normal" offseason with the start of the voluntary strength and conditioning program at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center.